Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has become absurdly rich in recent years, giving him the funds to try his hand competing with fellow billionaire Elon Musk in space, buy the Washington Post and launch a $2 billion charitable fund to help fight homelessness and create preschools in underserved communities.
And even still, Bezos has plenty left over. So much so, that his net worth is actually a useful barometer to judge the overall value (and vulnerability) of entire markets, like cryptocurrency, for example.
I was stunned this morning when I saw Bezos' net worth of around $160 billion contrasted with the overall market capitalization of Bitcoin, which sits at just under $109 billion as of September 17, according to CoinMarketCap.
That means the leading industrialist of the internet age could convert about two thirds of his wealth to Bitcoin and manage to literally own all of an entire currency. Of course, there would be no real reason to do this right now because Bitcoin isn't really an essential asset for any of us to acquire, hold or spend. Controlling all of it might destroy the demand for it and render it all worthless.
But imagine that Bezos or some other person or organization of comparable wealth was able to buy up all of a dominant cryptocurrency as part of a series of moves that also increases the demand for the currency.
Just thinking off the top of my head here, maybe someone who owns a dominant global retailer could buy up all or most of one cryptocurrency. They could then begin paying all their employees in said crypto, gifting some to their most loyal customers (let's just call them Prime customers) and then accepting that currency in exchange for its vast universe of products, perhaps at a discounted rate over transactions done with fiat currencies.
I'm sure plenty of economists out there can point out the ways such a house of cards might collapse on itself, but it seems feasible to imagine a scenario in which a cryptocurrency begins to really compete with fiat and then an oligarchy of whales at the helm is revealed and we're back in the robber-baron era relying on the company store (or online retailer).
There is evidence, after all, that Bitcoin ownership may not be as decentralized as the network that runs it.
Hopefully in addition to some economists who can tell me I've got it all wrong, there's also some crypto experts out there who can tell me about the brilliant failsafe Satoshi Nakamoto built into the system to prevent such a takeover of Bitcoin, or how the decentralization of other cryptocurrencies will save us.
What it really comes down to, though, is the accumulation of wealth and power. Should there be limits, or is Bezos entitled to everything he has, even if it gives him the power to swallow an entire asset class?
That's not a typo. Bezos could buy up all the Bitcoin and have about enough leftover to buy up the rest of the top ten cryptocurrencies, or almost 84 percent of the entire market for all crypto worldwide.
I mean just imagine if one person or one company was able to corner the market on a more tangible asset... say a single commodity like corn, or maybe something less essential but still in demand like oh, I don't know... books.
Just imagine what that person or company might be able to do a few decades down the road with that kind of power.